As a kid, I remember travelling to be a once in 4 years affair. And it used to be a humongous affair. Tickets, hotels, leaves and many other things need to be planned out well in advance. The scene has changed now. And why not? Travel and Tourism is now a major industry in India. India is now recognized as a travel destination for various reasons like spiritual tourism, medical tourism, ecotourism and more.
Technology is ruling the roost in the Tourism sector too. No more queues at the railway station for tickets. No hassling with local travel agents over tour packages. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) have changed the landscape of Indian Travel Industry. They offer more than ticket bookings and tour packages. They now need to offer and deliver customer delight. Reason being the stiff competition and low margin in travel deals. I, for instance, won’t recommend an OTA to a friend if I had a bad experience with them. In fact, the power to the consumer is now much more than we think. One negative review is enough to deter a few potential customers.
Ups and downs
So what is driving the travel industry these days? There are many reasons people are travelling and taking tours more and more. Few being:
- Increase in spending power
- Internet’s reach
- The power of credit card
- Governmental initiatives
- Online segments which cater to almost every class of tourists
- Growth in transportation
But then there’s a flip side to the coin too. Like every major industry in transition, Travel and Tourism too, is facing a few hiccups. Some restraints are:
- Low operating margins
- Issues of reliability
- Poor industry practices
- Lack of efficient infrastructure
- Cultural barriers
- Payment processing issues
Government and the Major Players
According to the Indian Tourism and Hospitality Report, the total contribution of the travel and tourism sector to India’s GDP is expected to increase from Rs 15.24 trillion in 2017 to Rs 32.05 trillion in 2028. India currently ranks 7th among 184 countries in terms of travel & tourism’s total contribution to GDP in 2017.
The Indian Government has surely realized the potential of tourism and is taking initiatives to tap it. Branding and Marketing initiatives like” Incredible India!” and “Atithi Devo Bhava” emphasize the impact of tourism. To encourage medical tourism, M Visa has been introduced. 100 FDI through automatic route is allowed in the hotel and tourism sector.
With time and competition, the role of these OTAs is not just limited to hotel and tickets booking. It has become a relationship of sorts. The customer expectations have increased. They now look for personalization, some add-ons, flexibility and an experience as a whole.
The OTAs need to step up their game to stay in the market. With the market being open to foreign players like Airbnb, the competition just increases. Here are some points to focus according to some industry stalwarts:
- Personalization to play a major role with customers seeking personal experience on every trip.
- Secure, flexible, and universal payment options are the need of the hour.
- Seamless internet experience irrespective of the device being used for the planning and execution of a trip. Think better apps!
- Protection against fraudulence.
- Better facilities and infrastructure.
- Variety of packages and activities.
- Safety and security.
- Skilled and professional manpower.
- 24*7 customer support.
The internet has brought the world closer and made it more accessible. People today know what they are doing, where they are going and what to expect of a place. Their expectations have increased from every service provider. OTAs being no exception. The only way to survive is to improve. Understand the requirements of the customer and fulfill and many times exceed them. There’s a lot that has been done and a lot remains. Hope to see the best of the OTAs in the coming years.